Which Five Players Will Be Crucial To Socceroos At 2018 World Cup?

 

Australia captain Mile Jedinak was the star of the show as the Socceroos defied the odds to beat Honduras and qualify for next summer’s World Cup. His superb hat-trick put Jorge Luis Pinto’s men to the sword and ensured Australia will be playing at the World Cup for the fourth tournament in a row.

He will be crucial to their chances of success in Russia next summer, but who else can fire the Socceroos to glory?

Here are their top five stars:

Mat Ryan

The old adage goes that you are only as good as your goalkeeper, and the Socceroos have a pretty safe pair of hands between the sticks in Ryan. It did not quite work out for him at Valencia, but a summer move to Premier League new boys Brighton has done him the world of good. He has cut an imposing figure for the Seagulls and helped them keep one of the best defensive records in the league. He has great agility, distribution and handling skills and marshals his defence well.

At just 25 he already has bags of international experience and will be key to their ability to compete next summer.

 

Mathew Leckie

The 26-year-old forward earned a dream move to Hertha Berlin this summer and scored twice on his debut to lead his team to victory over Stuttgart. He has since taken his tally to four for the campaign and is playing with confidence at present. He has great pace and provides plenty of assists, so he will be a real asset to Ange Postecoglou in Russia.

Leckie is one of only three Australians currently plying his trade in one of Europe’s top five leagues and that big game experience will be vital.

Mile Jedinak

Jedinak has led the team with aplomb since being made captain in 2015, guiding them to victory in the Asian Cup and now leading them into the World Cup. He displayed fantastic composure to score twice from the spot and ensure his team got past Honduras in a tricky playoff. It was a captain’s performance and the players around him will take great heart from his presence in the team.

He screens the defence well, wins the ball in the middle of the park and sets the tempo with his passing. He is not usually renowned for his goal scoring exploits, but that hat-trick took his haul up to 18 in 73 internationals. That is a fine return for a midfielder and another string to Jedinak’s impressive bow.

Tim Cahill

The evergreen Cahill has come to Australia’s rescue countless times over the years, and he did so again to see them past Syria in the first playoff round. His superbly taken brace snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and set up the clash with Honduras. He is now 37, but the Socceroos’ all-time leading scorer is still their most potent weapon. He has banged in a remarkable 50 goals in 104 caps, a sensational record for an attacking midfielder.

Cahill’s speciality has always been running from deep and arriving in the box at exactly the right time to sweep in a cross or bury a towering header, so fans will hope he still has the legs to play like that for Australia at the World Cup. He has scored five times at the World Cup and will be the team’s main threat once again if he is fit.

Aaron Mooy

The 27-year-old midfielder has gone from strength to strength at Huddersfield this year, earning rave reviews for his all-action style. He inspired the Terriers to an unlikely promotion to the Premier League and David Wagner spent a club record £10 million to make his loan move from Man City permanent. Huddersfield have reaped the rewards: Mooy is tidy on the ball, passes with intelligence and precision and gets stuck in, frequently winning the ball in the middle of the park.

He was the best player on the pitch when Huddersfield beat Man United this season and he curled in a delicious winner as they beat Newcastle. He is one of three players to be nominated for the Asian Player of the Year award, along with Japan’s Shinji Kagawa and Son Heung-Min of South Korea, and he has developed into Australia’s best player this year.

Over at Oddschecker you will see that the Socceroos are huge outsiders to win the World Cup, but with Mooy alongside Jedinak in the engine room they have a chance of surprising a few people and going on a strong run.

Author bio

Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and has been covering international football for many years.

Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen Shining At The Back For Conte

Andreas Christensen was your typical Chelsea youngster. There seemed no room for the talented centre-back at Stamford Bridge, so he was loaned out for two years to Borussia Monchengladbach.

The young Danish international played regularly with the Bundesliga side and earned himself plenty of plaudits.

In Germany he appeared sixty-two times in the league, in the previous two years he had managed just eight league outings with the Blues.

His time with Die Fohlen allowed him the chance to cut his teeth at a top flight club in Europe. Those minutes on the park with a first team were needed to help with his progression and footballing eduction, he wouldn’t have had that playing for the Chelsea reserves or sporadic first team appearances.

Christensen himself has stated just how important his loan spell was for his career development:

“For me personally, it was the two biggest years of my career. If it went badly I might not be here now, but because it did I am here, feeling confident and in a good spot,” 

 “The experience of playing in the Champions League and at the top level for two years every week helped me a lot.”

In the summer, Chelsea lost legendary captain John Terry and French central defender Kurt Zouma was sent out on loan to Stoke City in the aid of getting him regular football as he returns to full fitness.

The back three that helped manager Antonio Conte to secure the Premier League trophy in his first season at the Bridge have all remained at the club.

Defender Antonio Rudgier was brought in from Roma with a £29m fee.

World class defenders Leonardo Bonucci, Michael Keane and Virgil van Dijk were also all linked heavily with the English league champions.

But it’s the returning Christensen that seems to have won his manager’s trust.

The twenty-one year old has made five starts in the Premier League so far this term and he’s also made three further substitute appearances.

A reported falling out between Chelsea gaffer Conte and Brazilian centre-back David Luiz took place after the Blues were thumped 3-0 by Roma in the Champions League.

Luiz has since been dropped and it’s Andreas that has stepped into his place. Chelsea have won those two games, including a win over Jose Mourinho’s Man United, and have kept two clean-sheets in those fixtures.

Christensen looks assured at the back. He is very good with the ball and has a 92% passing success rate. He is also averaging at least 1.1 tackles per game and is making around 1.5 interceptions.

He’s also clean in the tackle and likes a block, the central defender has yet to pick up a card during this campaign.

Antonio Conte has chopped and changed his defensive line a few times during this campaign, the uncertainty has been a bit chaotic. Yet with keeping Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta and Christensen at the back in the last two games Chelsea have found a good consistent foundation to build from.

Having Andreas and Gary sitting back allows Spanish international Azpilicueta the chance to venture further forward and make decent passes to the forwards. It has worked wonders with their two clean-sheets. Against United, they hardly gave Romelu Lukaku a sniff at goal.

Current loanees Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham have been impressive in the Premier League this year. Their form has won them senior international recognition with England. That has led to many speculating why have the Blues loaned them out?

But these youngsters should look at what’s happening with Andreas Christensen and see that there is a pathway into the first team. If they keep impressing in the top flight and with England, then surely their time will come at the Bridge too.

Christensen has been patient and deserves his chance, I’m glad he’s take this opportunity with such aplomb and hopefully he’ll keep his place as long as he keeps giving his all at the heart of the Chelsea defence.

Pep Guardiola Finally Has A Top-Class Sweeper Keeper At Manchester City

When Pep Guardiola took over the reigns at Manchester City, he was ruthless with his assessment of his new club’s long-term number one.

Joe Hart had established himself as England’s shot stopper as well as City’s and the keeper had won two Premier League titles with the Sky Blues. Pep came in and stated that Joe wasn’t good enough with the ball at his feet and there was no time to educate him.

Hart was sent out on loan, first to Torino and now he’s at West Ham United this term.

City splashed out around £17m to bring in Claudio Bravo from FC Barcelona. The Chilean was meant to be the missing piece of the footballing jigsaw.

Pep likes his keepers to be involved with the passing style that his teams play with, rather than just save shots and punt clearances up field or into the stands.

Bravo is very clean and smart with the ball at his feet but unfortunately for Claudio and Pep the goalie wasn’t physically strong enough for the rigours of the Premier League. The veteran would make too many mistakes in his debut season, he couldn’t influence his defensive line and struggled with high balls into his box.

The Chilean’s erratic performances often provided opposition fans with much merriment, while City fans would sometimes have to watch him through their fingers.

Man City conceded more than Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and that’s why they finished in third place last term.

Pep was once again ruthless in his thinking and decision making. Yes Claudio Bravo had cost him a lot of money but he was found wanting and the City manager felt he couldn’t wait and see if things would be different this term.

That meant that City would open up their cheque book again and this time they parted with £35m to bring in Benfica goalie Ederson.

Eye-brows were raised considering the Brazilian had only achieved one full season as a number one with the Águias. Though in that season Ederson helped his side claim the Portuguese league title and they only conceded eighteen times, losing just two top flight games.

At twenty-four years of age, Ederson is at an age where he can still learn and adapt his style to suit Pep Guardiola’s needs. Pep loves to bring in young players and make them better, just look at what he’s done with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane during this campaign.

Even with an unsettled defence playing in front of him, mainly due to injuries, Ederson has looked strong in between the sticks and a reliable number one.

The 6ft 4inch star is always quick off the blocks to mop up any danger. having him do that has allowed the Citizens defence to push further up field and give the side a high line.

So far this season, City have only conceded seven times in the league and only Manchester United (who have a great goalkeeper in David de Gea) have a better record. Ederson has started in all of those games, as well as the four fixtures in the Champions League, and kept nine clean-sheets in total.

The keeper has a passing success average of 83.6% and that is better than any other goalie in England’s top flight. He also averages a clearance a game too. His distribution is quick as well as accurate, which gets City back on the front foot just as Pep likes it.

The young goalkeeper is quick off of his line as he is intelligent enough to read the game and snuff out any danger.

He has also shown us that he’s brave enough to go all out to win the ball. Against Liverpool earlier in the season he raced Sadio Mane for the ball, the keeper won the race but received Mane’s boot in his face for his troubles. Ederson had the battle scars as he slumped off the field but Sadio received a straight red and City won the game with a clean-sheet to their name.

Against Leicester City on Saturday, Ederson once again rushed out his goal as Demarai Gray raced towards the box. It was a timely interception as John Stones pulled up with a hamstring injury during the foot race with Gray.

The goalkeeper also prevented the Foxes from equalising with a well timed punch and straight after that moment Kevin De Bruyne gave Man City a two-nil lead!

Unlike Bravo, Ederson instils confidence to those that play ahead of him in defence and that has the fans in a happier mood too. The Brazilian is also more comfortable with the physical game that you get in England and he has a better command of his penalty area.

Fellow Brazilian international goalkeeper Julio Cesar was full of praising when discussing Ederson recently:

“He’s already a complete goalkeeper who is really strong coming off his line. People enjoy watching him.”

If Ederson can continue with these excellent displays at the Etihad, then he’ll not only justify his big price tag but he will also become yet another world-class goalkeeper to shine under Pep Guardiola!

Hatem Ben Arfa Could Be West Ham’s New Dimitri Payet!

West Ham United love a flair player and if he’s a bit eccentric then all the better.

That’s why the likes of Paolo Di Canio and Dimitri Payet succeed with the Hammers.

Since Payet’s acrimonious departure back to Marseille in January, industrious replacements Robert Snodgrass and Marko Arnautovic haven’t hit the mark.

New West Ham gaffer David Moyes will no doubt come in and want to add strong defensive foundations. The Scot will want to make the Hammers hard to beat and that’s a great starting point, if he can make it happen.

That being said the Irons support always want to see a fair player who can make a difference in games. So the West Ham board and their new manager should look at the possibility of bringing in an attacking maestro that can get fans off their seats and add more assists and goals to the West Ham team.

A name that could worth noting is Hatem Ben Arfa.

The Frenchman has a reputation you have to be wary of. He can be arrogant and needs to be man-managed perfectly to get the best out of him but surely the same can be said of Payet and Paolo.

Ben Arfa has recently been linked with a move to Leicester City, as the new Foxes boss Claude Puel got the best out of the forward at OGC Nice in the 2015-16 season.

Puel recently said this about his former star man:

“I appreciate the player, but I also appreciate the person.”

His form for Les Aiglons, under Claude, saw Hatem score seventeen top flight goals and create six Ligue 1 assists. His performances were a big reason in Nice’s rise up the French table and they secured an impressive fourth place finish. It also won him a recall into the French national squad.

Ben Arfa’s move to Ligue 1 giants PSG hasn’t really gone to plan.

While his bank balance has been enhanced greatly, the player has found league starts very hard to come by.  He made just five league starts last term and hasn’t even played a single minute of Ligue 1 football during this  campaign.

His relationship with PSG’s Unai Emery has been difficult to say the least. The forward has been forced to train with the reserves a few times in the last twelve months.

It must be nice to pick up around £115k a week and doing very little for it but surely a thirty year old footballer wants to be playing every week. Ben Arfa should have a desire to once again prove himself.

The attacker was a fan favourite during his stint at Newcastle United. His trickery, pace and guile caused opposition defences a torrid time but only when he was happy and focused. The fact he has Premier League experience could be a major plus when deciding if he’s worth taking a risk on.

Hammers manager Moyes does have a history of giving a creative talent more freedom in his teams, Mikel Arteta at Everton immediately springs to mind.

Hatem Ben Arfa’s contract is up next summer and PSG are definitely not going to offer him a new deal. He’ll be free to leave the Parc des Princes in the winter transfer window but his huge wage demands could put sides off.

But that might actually play into West Ham’s hands. They could bring the play-maker in on a loan until the end of the season, paying a fraction of his wage. PSG might be happy to take up the slack in terms of his salary if it means he leaves the squad.

The Irons could then get a maverick player with a point to prove. His ability is unquestionable as long as he has his head screwed on.

If David Moyes can get the best out of him, then Moyes will show the West Ham faithful that he understands the want to see good, exciting and creative football.

Obviously it would be a risk but sometimes a risk is worth taking.

Is Antonio Conte Phasing Willian Out Of Chelsea?

Back in 2015, Willian started in the majority of Chelsea’s Premier League fixtures as Jose Mourinho guided the Blues to the league crown that year.

In the season that followed not many of Chelsea’s stars turned up and the team slipped down to tenth spot, with Jose paying the ultimate price by getting sacked. That being said, Willian still managed to shine in that disappointing campaign with the Brazilian scoring five and assisting six others in his thirty-two Premier League starts. The forward easily claimed Chelsea’s player of the year trophy that season.

The attacker hasn’t been used quite as regularly under Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge. Last year as the Blues secured another top flight title, Willian managed just fifteen starts. He did come off the bench a further nineteen times and his goals tally went up to eight for the season but it must have been a surprise for the forward not to start more.

He might just be a victim of circumstance as Conte has went to a 3-4-2-1 formation and last season the Italian seemed to prefer having Eden Hazard and Pedro playing behind a lone striker.

This season seems to be more of the same for the twenty-nine year old. He has started six league games so far and came on a further five times. It should be noted he started more at the start of the campaign when Hazard was out injured. Willian has started just once in the last four outings, in that game he played the full ninety minutes against Everton in the League Cup and scored the winner. After that in the league he managed just a combined eight minutes against AFC Bournemouth and Manchester United.

For a Brazilian internationalist hoping to make the Selecao squad at next summer’s World Cup those sort of cameos aren’t really good enough.

Willian must be thinking that Conte doesn’t rate him worthy of a regular starting berth. With the January transfer window nearing, the Brazilian play-maker might look at leaving the current English champions.

Chelsea are never scared of letting players leave if they don’t think those players are stars in their team. Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Juan Mata and Diego Costa have been sold on. While experienced personnel who have shown the club loyalty like Petr Cech and Nemanja Matic have also been allowed to leave the Bridge.

If Willian isn’t fitting into Conte’s plans, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him offloaded as long as Chelsea get a competitive price for his talents.

The forward has recently claimed that the Chelsea boss doens’t really communicate with his players:

“He is very closed off.

“He hardly ever talks to the players .

“He gives instructions in training, on the pitch and nothing more.”

Newspaper gossip is already liking the Blues attacker with a winter move to Italian giants AC Milan. His former gaffer Mourinho is now at Man United and he has been continually linked with his former protege.

Conte would certainly prefer moving the talented Brazilian to Serie A rather than seeing him at a rival like United but we know Chelsea supremo Roman Abramovich has little qualms in selling an under used asset to another Premier League outfit.

It will be interesting to see if Conte decides to use Willian more, they have the hectic festive period coming up and they’re still fighting in four competitions after all.

Or will Antonio identify a more suitable replacement that fits in with his formation and his way of thinking?

At the moment it seems as if the Italian manager is phasing the midfield maestro out of the club and it’s a question of when rather than if.

Man United Have To Be Wary Of Another Cristiano Ronaldo Soap Opera

It seems like every transfer window comes around and Cristiano Ronaldo decides he wants to leave Real Madrid.

Plenty of media outlets have suggested that the Portuguese megastar has rejected a new contract with the Champions League winners and stated that he wants to leave the Spanish capital in the summer.

The forward is supposedly irked that he’s behind Neymar and Lionel Messi in terms of salary, plus Ronaldo is still smarting about the Spanish tax case that hampered his start to the season.

With the stories swirling that the world class number seven is eyeing up a move away from the Bernabeu, former employers Manchester United have to be wary of chasing a player that isn’t actually interested in leaving at all.

Cristiano and his agent Jorge Mendes are excellent negotiators. When Real don’t offer them the terms in which is to their liking then they leak to the media that they aren’t happy. It happens time and again.

Then Man United watch on from afar and hold back on the transfer front, just in case they can bring back their former hero. You then get headlines stating the Old Trafford club are readying a massive bid and are prepared to offer Ronaldo a massive pay packet too.

What happens after that?

Well Ronaldo and Real do a deal. Cristiano and Los Blancos president Florentino Perez are then pictured together shaking hands and grinning from ear to ear.

United look like the hapless ex lover who has once again been used just to make the current partner jealous.

The Man Utd fans are left feeling teased and United’s reputation takes a wee dent as well.

Even if Ronaldo were to leave Madrid, would Old Trafford be his preferred destination?

The thirty-two year old has been there and done it all at Man United. So would he really go back? Let’s not forget that the attacker has also had his issues with Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho, would both egos be able to co-exist with each other again?

A move to MLS like another former United and Real legend, David Beckham, might be tempting. Beckham earned himself a fortune in Los Angeles. Ronaldo now has a young family and living in the States might suit them more than another spell in Manchester.

Another potential option, especially if more money is the main objective, would be a move to super rich PSG.

The Neymar deal is eye-watering to say the least. Playing in the same frontline as the Brazilian striker and Kylian Mbappe would be enticing to an ageing Ronaldo.

You’d imagine that the Qatari owners at the Parcs des Princes would fall over themselves to get one of the greatest footballers ever at their club. They could even top the €30m a year deal they currently give Neymar. Let’s face it the Ligue 1 giants don’t seem phased by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

If I were Man United I’d be very wary of the latest Cristiano Ronaldo speculation and not to get my hopes up. I certainly wouldn’t build my transfer plans or marketing ploys around the Portuguese legend singing on again at Old Trafford.

That being said, if Jorge Mendes calls his old friend Jose and states that Ronaldo definitely wants to return to the Theatre of Dreams then by all means push the boat out!

 

Could Scotland And Rangers Go To War Over Michael O’Neill?

We can have no doubts when it comes to Micheal O’Neill and the job he has done with Northern Ireland. The forty-eight year old has been magnificent in turning his nation’s fortunes around.

Yes they just missed out on the World Cup due to a slender play-off loss to Switzerland but to get the Green and White Army so close is such a huge achievement. Guiding them to France and to EURO 2016 was an amazing feat.

That has obviously seen the manager’s stock rise dramatically with plenty of suitors taking an interest in his work.

Two current potential employers could be the SFA and Rangers Football Club.

Scotland need a new boss after Gordon Strachan failed to get his side over the line when they were a win away from a play-off spot themselves. It has now been almost twenty years since Scotland graced a major international tournament.

On the other hand Rangers have recently sacked Pedro Caixinha after the Portuguese failed to live up to his own hype. The Ibrox club are sitting in fourth place in the Scottish Premiership but are only six points off top spot.

Moving back to Scotland might interest O’Neill greatly, as he spent significant time here as both a player and a manager in the past. In actual fact the former Hibs man still resides in Edinburgh. You’d also imagine that both jobs in Glasgow would pay him more than he gets in Belfast, supposedly the SFA are ready to double his current wage packet.

The first question O’Neill will have to ask himself is ‘does he want to leave his current job with Northern Ireland?’

He’s safe with the IFA and they enjoy a strong working relationship. He has assembled a squad that clearly back him and respect him, midfielder Oliver Norwood said this after the loss to the Swiss:

“The message is loud and clear from the players and fans that we would like Michael to remain as we can achieve great things with this squad.”

Managing ones country is still an ultimate honour and the IFA will no doubt offer him a new pay hike to try and persuade him to stay on as their manager.

If he does indeed decide to leave his current role, it has been six years after all and can he do much better than he has done already? Then the next question O’Neill will have to ask himself is ‘to stay in international management or return to the club side of things?’

At Scotland, Micheal will have to try and do the same again.

He will be tasked with rejuvenating the countries fortunes on the international stage and restoring the pride in the national team from the supporters. Before Euro 2016 it was thirty years since Northern Ireland had reached a major finals, so he has clearly reached the required targets with them. Can he transfer those skills to another nation?

The Scotland squad does have potential to grow, they certainly aren’t any worse off from the Northern Ireland pool O’Neill inherited back in 2011. The main thing they lack is self belief and possibly a good central defensive partnership. Micheal could come in and at least give the players more confidence and self belief, if he can make Hearts forward Kyle Lafferty look like a world beater then he must have some skill-set as a man-manager.

Getting Scotland to the next EURO’s would make Michael O’Neill a hero in two countries!

The man himself might want to return to full-time club work. We know certain international bosses crave the everyday aspect that you get as a club manager.

Rangers are historically classed as a big side in Northern Ireland and maybe O’Neill will look at the opportunity to try and return them to their former glories as too tempting to turn down.

The Gers squad actually aren’t as bad as Pedro managed to make them. They aren’t the best in Scotland but with the right gaffer they could be the second best side in the top flight this term. Like the Scotland team, the Rangers players need some TLC. Caixinha was a divisive character and the Gers stars didn’t seem to know where they were under him. Importantly the club’s fans didn’t see where the side was going with him in charge.

I’d imagine O’Neill would come in and bring a much needed focus, giving everyone in the set-up another chance to prove their worth to the team.

Both camps (Scotland & Rangers) will be eyeing up Micheal O’Neill and wondering if they should pounce but they might need to be quick.

The US are also looking out for a new head coach and have already been linked with the Portadown native. Sooner or later an English Premier League or Championship side will come calling too.

It might be a straight fight between the SFA and the Gers hierarchy if they identify O’Neill as their chosen man, who wins will come down to Micheal and his own ambitions.

 

Chelsea Could Target Either Dries Martens Or Mauro Icardi From Serie A

Chelsea know that they’ve got an uphill battle to fight if they are going to overthrow league leaders Manchester City and retain their Premier League crown.

The current champions are nine points behind Pep Guardiola’s City side but Antonio Conte masterminded Chelsea’s title ambitions from a similar deficit last term.

One thing that the Blues might need to address is their lack of goals so far this season.

The London club have scored nineteen times, that’s only the sixth best total in England’s top flight. City on the other hand have hit the net a whopping thirty-eight times in just eleven league outings, with strikers Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero both scoring regularly.

Chelsea’s big summer signing Alvaro Morata has had a very decent return of seven strikes in ten Premier League appearances. His goal at Stamford Bridge was enough to give his side a victory in their vital win over Manchester United a week ago.

They have a back-up striker in Michy Batshuayi and while the Belgian international can offer goals it seems as though his manager doesn’t truly believe in him for the big games.

Last year it was a change in tactics that would herald Chelsea’s run that saw them crowned league champs, maybe another tweak in their formation could help them get things back on track this term.

Maybe Antonio could forgo a playmaker or return to four at the back, that would free-up space for another forward to play alongside Morata.

As we all know Conte knows the Italian market inside out, so maybe the coach will look at the possibility of bringing in a Serie A hotshot to help spark a goal glut in 2018.

In that regard two names spring to mind, Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan and Napoli’s Dries Mertens.

Argentine Icardi is currently leading the line and captaining the Nerazzurri. In his opening twelve games the striker has bagged himself an impressive eleven goals, including a hat trick in the Milan derby.

His finishing ability, big game mentality and his aerial ability would have impressed Antonio Conte. The twenty-four year old’s technique, pace and strength make him a great all-rounder upfront.

The player also possesses great self confidence, it should be noted that all fantastic forwards possess that!

When discussing his captain, current Internazionale manager Luciano Spalletti has stated:

“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

It will be interesting to see if Icardi would be interested in a move away from Italy’s fashion capital. The Argentine has been at Inter for the past four years and he’s always had a prickly relationship with the Inter Milan ultras.

He seems to be a highly ambitious player.

Inter, themselves, wouldn’t want to sell one of their best players mid-season. Especially not this season as they’ve managed to get themselves into the title picture again. That being said the illustrious club might not have much say as it has been widely reported that Mauro’s contract has a release clause of €110m inserted into it.

In today’s market that’s not an unthinkable sum and Roman Abramovich has never been scared to throw his weight around when doing his transfer business.

Stumbling blocks that could halt any potential move could be:

  • Will the striker want to leave the San Siro in January, especially when Inter have the chance to win the Scudetto?
  • Would Conte see Icardi as a temperamental talent much in the mould of Diego Costa?
  • Does the Argentine international favour a move to Real Madrid?

Then there’s Napoli hitman Dries Mertens.

The small striker has been banging in the goals in the last season and a half. In total he has thirty-eight Serie A strikes in forty-seven appearances. Ten of those goals have come during this campaign.

Intelligent Martens would also offer Conte versatility as he can play on either wing as well as through the middle. His assist stats are better than Inter’s Icardi, although unlike the Inter man Dries would be cup-tied for the Champions League.

His small stature could be complimented by playing alongside Morata, who is very strong in the air. It could resemble an old school little and large partnership.

In 2016, Martens outshone Chelsea’s Eden Hazard on the international stage and he won Belgium’s player of the year award. The two playing in the same club team could cause havoc and terrorise opposition defences.

While the forward signed a new longer term contract in May of this year, Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis confirmed that the new deal contained a release clause in it:

“Mertens will remain with us for several years, unless he wants to go to China if someone were to exercise the clause that he wanted, even if I am not in favour of them after Higuain’s departure.”

Reports have since emerged that the release clause could be as little as €30m and that would be pocket change for a club like Chelsea. The clause might not be active until the summer of 2018 but would De Laurentiis reject a higher bid of say £40m for the thirty-year old, knowing he’ll not get that high an offer again?

Would the player choose to leave Napoli in January, when the Partenopei are leading in Italian table and have a chance to win the Scudetto?

The Belgian forward is also guaranteed a starting berth and one through the middle, he might wonder if he’d get the same luxury at the Bridge.

It will be interesting to see if Antonio Conte is brave enough to go more attack-minded and launch a move for a top forward when the January transfer window opens. Another question is will the Chelsea hierarchy back their manager?

It could be a huge winter window for the Blues. Will they show the ambition needed to go out and bring in the reinforcements that can turn around Man City’s lead?

 

Four Players Who Could Leave Man United In January

Recent reports suggest that the Manchester United’s hierarchy have told manager Jose Mourinho that he’ll need to sell players before he can sign anyone this January.

The Portuguese boss has spent big since his arrival in the summer of 2016, so you can see why the moneymen might be unwilling to see another huge spend happen in the winter window.

With that in mind, I thought I’d look at players who Mourinho might sell in a bid to bring in more star quality in positions that could strengthen the Red Devils chances of winning the Premier League title in May.

LUKE SHAW 

The England international left-back seems the most likely to depart Old Trafford in the up and coming transfer window.

The twenty-two year old has had a tough time of it since his £30m transfer from Southampton in 2o14. Injuries, fitness issues and a distinct lack of confidence have hampered his time at Man Utd.

This season has seen the full-back make just two substitute appearance in the League Cup. His route back into the first team looks to be blocked with Ashley Young, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian all seemingly ahead of him in Mourinho’s thoughts. Argentine defender Marcos Rojo is also nearing a return from injury and that will be another star vying for the left-back spot.

Jose has been critical of Shaw in the past and it seems as though the United boss has all but given up hope on the young full-back changing his own fortunes around.

After Luke’s performances against Burton Albion in the League Cup, Jose stated:

“You saw the game, you saw the same as I see, so are you asking if he plays tomorrow? No, he is not playing tomorrow. He has to work. He has to improve.”

I don’t think Luke Shaw has improved enough to convince Mourinho that he’s worth keeping for the rest of this term, so I’d expect to see him depart in January.

The question is ‘will he be sold or loaned out?

I think a loan away could see the player return to Manchester fitter and with more confidence but if Jose has decided that he’s had enough chances then a permanent sale me be sought!

ANDER HERRERA

It might seem odd that United would sell last season’s fans’ player of the year but it might just happen.

The Spaniard seems to have an unfortunate habit of upsetting his manager. It was suggested that the midfielder enraged his gaffer when he invited someone connected to Celta Vigo to the Carrington training ground just before United’s clash with the La Liga side in the Europa League.

Herrera found himself out of the team during the early part of the season; with Mourinho preferring Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini.

The twenty-eight year managed to get back into the starting eleven after a spate of injuries. He then seemed to anger Jose after United’s surprising loss to Huddersfield Town by blaming the defeat on a lack of passion:

“I heard Ander Herrera in the flash interviews saying the attitude and desire was poor. Oh my God. When a player says that, when a player feels that, I think they should all go to the press conference and explain why because I cannot explain that.”

The media have recently reported that the Spanish middle-man has once again attracted the interest of Atletico Madrid.

As well as his publicised fall-outs with Jose Mourinho, people also believe Ander is close to the exit door because his contract is running out next summer. That being said, Man United can trigger a one year extension if they so wish.

It does seem odd that the club haven’t tied the player down to a longer term deal. They have a few faces that can fill the midfield roles but they don’t have many as talented with his craft or as disciplined as the Spaniard.

MAROUANE FELLAINI 

The big Belgian is another midfielder who has his contracting expiring in 2018.

Like Herrera, he doesn’t seem to be first choice at the moment and has suffered from an injury this term too.

The arrival of Scott McTominay in the first team squad might see Mourinho more accepting of selling Felliani. The youngster at 6ft 4ins can give the club a similar presence that the Belgian international has in the past.

Man Utd boss Mourinho has praised Marouane for his versatility earlier in this campaign:

“Marouane is just the fact I think he has important qualities and I try to use these qualities depending of the situation, depending of the team’s needs.”

“He played with me as defensive midfield player, as second striker, he played with me like today in one of the double midfield players, adapted to the needs of the team.”

It seems odd that the United manager wouldn’t deal-in a trusted player who he has complimented regularly this year.

Maybe the fact that the midfielder is soon to be thirty and that they have others that can play in his place could see Jose cash in and bring in a creative winger instead.

  • They definitely won’t sell both Herrera and Fellaini.

JAMES WILSON

The young striker started his Manchester Utd career with a bang in 2014.

Given his chance under interim boss Ryan Giggs, Wilson started against Hull City and scored an impressive brace on his debut in front of the Old Trafford faithful.

That sensational start was never followed up, James would score just one more league goal for the Red Devils in fourteen appearances.

Two loan spells at Brighton and Derby followed, but he wasn’t prolific at either club in the Championship. His time at Derby was curtailed due to a serious knee injury.

Since his debut, United have brought in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford has made the step up from the youth team. Both are younger than Wilson, and both are of higher quality. Add Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku to the mix and James Wilson has zero chance of seeing regular first team football in the near future at Old Trafford.

Could be best all round if Man Utd agree to let the young hitman go in the winter window and have a buy back clause inserted into any deal, just incase he reaches his full potential elsewhere.

 

Huddersfield Defender Schindler Should Be On Liverpool’s Transfer List

Liverpool certainly haven’t found a way to solve their defensive problems thus far this season.

Jurgen Klopp was desperate to bring in Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk during the summer but his club messed up their pursuit and had to pull out of any chase for the Dutchman. They may go back in for the centre-back in January but there’s nothing to say that they can get their target in during that window either.

The Anfield club didn’t have any other potential options and they went with the defensive personnel that they already had and they’ve simply not been good enough this year.

With that in mind, maybe Klopp will surely have a few other options for the upcoming winter window and he might decide to bring in another central defender, even if he does get Van Dijk.

A possible option could be Huddersfield Town defender Christopher Schindler.

The twenty-seven year old has taken to Premier League football like a duck to water. He also managed forty-four appearances in the Championship last term, so he knows the English game well.

His form this term has seen plenty of plaudits head his way and even some pundits stating he could get a chance at international football with Germany. It should be noted that Christopher has represented his country at under-21 level.

His Terriers boss David Wagner has been quick to manage expectations:

“He has played six Premier League games and six outstanding ones but if the question is about being a German international, I think everyone should calm down,”

Huddersfield currently lie in an impressive tenth place in the league table. They’ve kept five clean-sheets in their opening eleven league games. In total they’ve conceded just thirteen times in those league fixtures, that’s very good for a newly promoted side.

In terms of stats, Schindler compares well with Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip.

Takles per game has the German at around 3.2 on average, while Lovren is down to 1 per game and Matip is slightly higher at 1.7.

With interceptions the Huddersfield Town centre-back has made around 2.3 per Premier League game. Croat Lovren has an average of less than one interception and Joel’s at 1.7 per league appearance.

Christopher has also made more blocks than the Liverpool duo and has a greater clearance record too. That might be because he’s playing at club that has to defend more but he’s defending properly and that’s the key.

The Anfield partnership both have a better passing success rate but only just. Lovren has also equalled Schindler’s aerial duals record at 3.7 per fixture.

The German defender has been booked three times and he picked up a red card in his last outing against West Brom. No player in the English top flight has a worse disciplinary record

I’m not saying that Christopher Schindler is the main answer to all Liverpool’s troubles but I think he could be a better man to have in the squad than say Ragnar Klavan and he’d give Dejan and Matip a run for their money too.

The central defender has been a key in Wagner’s success story at the Kirklees Stadium and as we know Jurgen Klopp has kept an eye on his good friend David’s work in West Yorkshire.

The Liverpool boss will have noticed fellow countryman Schindler’s assured performances and might think Christopher could help shore up the Merseyside club’s backline!